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Posts tagged ‘outdoors’

farewell to a favorite pastime

As we prepare to bid adieu to Rwanda, we have been making mental notes of the things we will miss (and others that we definitely won’t). One thing high on D’s list – not just for Rwanda, but rather for the entire continent – is the region’s incredible birdlife.

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tulip mania

Roughly four centuries before bitcoin captivated the public’s imagination, a similarly unlikely commodity fueled the world’s first recorded speculative bubble. At the height of the Dutch Republic’s tulip mania, a single bulb of some tulip varieties sold for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. The bubble burst in 1637, but the Dutch obsession with tulips persists to a lesser extent to this day, as we learned during our brief stay in The Hague. We missed National Tulip Day, but even better — our visit coincided with the heart of the tulip season.

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two tales of a city

More than historic and charming Bruges and much more than gloomy Ghent, our fondest memories of Belgium were forged in the tiny riverside town of Dinant in the heart of the Ardennes, a forested region of ruggedly beautiful terrain that encompasses parts of four countries. And this is despite the fact that Dinant greeted us with the worst weather of our two-week European trip.

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pleasant surprise

Our last night in Bruges we were joined by a good friend who had taken the train all the way from Cambridge to meet up with us. Unfortunately, we had committed to spending the following weekend with other friends in Luxembourg, so we only overlapped for one night. We had chosen the Grand Duchy as our rendezvous point simply because none of us had ever been there before and were pleasantly surprised to discover that Luxembourg has quite a lot to offer. The capital is pleasant and scenic, but does not really have enough attractions for a full weekend of sightseeing. The rest of the country, however, is simply magnificent and definitely merits a leisurely visit.

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standing on top of the world

Dropping more than half-a-mile in five distinct free-leaping cascades, Tugela Falls (948 meters) is Africa’s tallest waterfall, and second in the world only to Venezuela’s Angel Falls. After hiking through Royal-Natal to get a glimpse of Tugela from below, D ascended to the top of the Amphitheatre on his last day in the Drakensberg to stand at the waterfall’s edge.

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day-tripping in the kingdom in the sky

“There’s not much to do in Lesotho,” a South African friend told D, “except to look at it.” This struck D as reason enough to plan a brief visit to this, the highest country in the world. Having already decided to spend several days in the Drakensberg Mountains – Lesotho’s spiritual homeland, according to another South African acquaintance – it seemed silly not to make at least a day trip to Lesotho. Getting there, however, proved a bit of a challenge.

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amphitheatre of the gods

D’s first hike in the Drakensberg also proved to be his toughest – not just because of the length and intermittent sketchiness of the trail, but also because of what it took to get there.

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dragon hunting

Work took D to South Africa a few short weeks after we had completed our Garden Route trip, presenting an opportunity to explore a little more of what is quickly becoming one of our favorite countries in the world. The possibilities were at once numerous and difficult to execute. D only had a long weekend at his disposal before he had to report for work to the consulate in Johannesburg, and all of the destinations that had piqued his interest were at least 4-5 hours’ drive away.

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last day in paradise

Mauritius is a fascinating place. Successive occupation by first the Dutch, then the French, and finally the British have forged a multi-religious, multi-ethnic nation that is Africa’s most densely populated. [With twelve million people crammed into a country the size of Maryland, Rwanda – where we live – is the most densely populated nation on the African continent. At 640 inhabitants per square kilometer, Mauritius is 40% more densely populated!] Rwanda definitely feels crowded, so it was quite a trip to visit an even smaller, even more densely populated nation.

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glimpses of Mauritius

After five days in Mauritius – three of which we spent waiting out a cyclone warning – we were beginning to feel more than a little stir crazy. As soon as the storm had passed and the meteorological service had lifted the cyclone advisory, we booked a car to take us around the island.

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